The Stavros Manuscript
by Vince Wheeler
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Psychological
Print Length: 370 pages
Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman
A mindbending novel about how a mysteriously untranslatable manuscript forever changes one man’s life
Leonard Stavros wakes up penniless, unsure of the events of the last few days. His friend, Ed, a crook and good-for-nothing, assures Leonard that he wasted his money on night on the town, but that doesn’t sound like Leonard, who is an introverted world-renowned linguist and cypher-breaker.
He is haunted by the Paisley Codex, an encoded medieval manuscript that he has wasted years trying to break. Before Leonard knows it, he and Ed are breaking open the safe of a cryptic man known only as the Judge, only to find the Paisley Codex itself.
Fleeing with the manuscript, Leonard takes refuge with a beautiful woman named Nina, with whom he forms an instant connection. Nina quickly becomes fascinated with cracking the Codex, too, but strangely, Leonard feels that he has met Nina before, in a recurring dream he has about breaking the Paisley Codex…
As reality, memory, and dreams become indecipherable from one another, Leonard must face some difficult questions: why is the Codex even here? Why does Nina appear in his dreams? Why does he have no idea what city he is in, or what the date is? And most importantly, will he ever read the secret message hidden within the Paisley Codex?
Fast-paced and deeply cerebral, Vince Wheeler’s The Stavros Manuscript is a thriller that will keep readers guessing. The goalposts are constantly shifting; the innocuous and the mundane transform as Leonard grapples with his past failure and tries to puzzle out the truth of his reality. As Leonard works to break the unbreakable cypher, readers will work alongside him to solve the mysteries of Leonard’s circumstances. What results is an engrossing plot and a story that is as unique as Leonard is unhinged.
The Stavros Manuscript is the kind of book that keeps readers anxious to find out what happens next, but there are a few scenes that break the flow of the narrative, particularly concerning Leonard’s objectification of Nina and women in general. Other female readers could experience a similar frustration with these moments.
In this sophomore novel, Wheeler’s writing is adept and entrancing, fashioning a narrative that is always in flux and always more than it seems. Leonard’s world is wholly unexpected, and the build-up of excitement and danger makes The Stavros Manuscript an excellent addition to any mystery and thriller-lovers’ bookshelf.
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